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How to Make Your First Animated Short - Part 3 - Production
In this final installment of the three-part series on "How to Make Your First Animated Short," I'll cover in detail the production process for creating your animated short.
In the How to Make Your First Animated Short - Part 1 of this series, we looked out how to define your project and started laying down your ideas in a couple of shots to set the mood. In the How to Make Your First Animated Short - Part 2, which covered preproduction, you designed your characters, storyboarded and created your backgrounds. Now you're ready to create the final piece.
In your animation software, you need to do the layout of your scene, known as scene planning. Import your backgrounds, create your camera moves, and place your characters and props. You'll do this for every scene (the piece of time between cuts) in your animated short. Once you have a scene laid out, you're ready to start animating.
Paperless Frame-by-frame Animation
If you are making paperless frame-by-frame animation, you have to draw your characters on every frame to animate them over your backgrounds. One of the most effective way of doing this is:
Create a rough pass of the keys (drawings of the character in their start and end positions, from cut to cut).
Do a rough pass of the breakdown to show how the action will be performed syncing it with a voiceover if necessary. For example, will your character walk from one place to another or will they jump? What kind of emotion do you want to portray? You could clean it up here if you like, or you could wait until after you create the inbetweens.
Create the inbetweens, the drawings on every frame so you have the full motion.
Do the cleanup - put all your drawings on model based on your model pack, and then clean up the drawings.
If your character needs tones and highlights in the scene, add them on another layer here.
Do the ink & paint - this means you colour the lines and fills for your character according to your colour palette.
Add any additional effects that you want to animate. A great resource for visual effects is the book Elemental Magic: The Art of Special Effects Animation, by Joseph Gilland. Our Product Manager Marc-Andre Bouvier also posted a blog on how to create hand-drawn effects in Harmony here.
Repeat this process for every asset in your scene (all the characters, props, effects and so on). Marc-Andre Bouvier provided a few tips for sketching and drawing in Harmony here.
Cut-out or Puppet Animation
When you animate in the cut-out, or puppet, style, you need to rig characters and props ahead of time. Rigging is also where you do the ink & paint process. When you're rigging, think about how you want the character to move as this impacts the complexity of your rig. More complex rigs require more work.
For some tips on rigging in Harmony, check out Toon Boom Trainer Matisse Verheyden's blog article on a rig he created using Bitmaps in Harmony, which also has a link to download his file.
Once your characters are rigged, you're ready to animate:
Pose your characters for the keys and breakdowns. This is where you can use the tools your software has to offer, such as deformers, to enhance the look and vitality of your character.
Generate the inbetweens through interpolation. Make sure the mouth shapes are in sync with the audio. If you need some tips, Matisse Verheyden recorded a webinar on lipsync techniques in Harmony here.
Adjust the spacing (ease) of your drawings to put emphasis on certain poses and accentuate different moments in the animation.
Repeat for each character and prop.
If you want, composite more effects into your scene. You may want to add particles, lighting effects and so on.
If you looking for resources on how to rig and do cut-out animation in Harmony, we have a few courses on our learning portal.
Sound and Vision - Edit your Short
You've completed all the animation work, which is the lion's share of the project. Now, it's time to export the scenes and edit them all together. Editing is an important stage in the process as this is when you tie all your work together. With all the effort you made and the fun you had creating the piece, it's worthwhile to invest a bit more time in this post production activity.
During the editorial, you add the sound design with your audio effects, foley, music and ambient sound. If you have a voiceover, sync it to your video. Add your transitions and any other effects you want to do in post. Create your titles and credits and give the entire piece a final editorial pass. Then export your first animated short, ready for the public.